Last summer a group of actors and visual artists visited Monchique for 20 days to write a play about the convent of Monchique. This group is called the Karnart and does a variety of community theater – combining visual, animation, photography and sound. Often ‘community theater’ means that members of the community enact a role or themselves even in plays which address issues a community is experiencing. This play did not have anyone of the community enacting, but integrated video interviews and speech. The play, just over 60 minutes long, was split into four parts:
1. Setting the Scene (history of the convent and first impressions)
2. Describing the outsiders point of view (tourists, other community members)
3. Video and interviews describing the insiders view (footage showing the family living there and telling their story about the convent and what they would do with it if they had the money)
4. Future for Monchique and making the community realise that they have all the ‘good’ things just by their doorstep (organic farming, nature, springs etc)
As the play was in Portuguese it was rather difficult to understand the spoken parts of the play. We (the three of the group that went) were very lucky that the play integrated so many audio/ visual elements. It was a rather enjoyable play – some parts were abstracted with several layers of plot and expression (especially in the last bit), others were rather strict – three chairs with speakers against black. I think the main point of the play was to communicate perspectives. Perspectives of what should happen with the convent differ: business man want to transform it into a hotel, tourists want to visit it and learn more about it, the community does not want the ruin the fall to pieces, and the family wants to have a place to live and continue living there since the last 30 years. One of the last points (picture below) unbranded packaging ‘para usar no futura’ – which means ‘to use in future’ – and the flower objects made from cans, express that the opportunity of Monchique lies in a different approach, beyond the convent. It lies in rethinking and living the alternative ‘dream’ which respects limited resources and nature. However, the way this was communicated could be called plump.
Also from talking to friends later on, they said that the whole situation was rather unusual – rarely, this diverse mix of social groups (including the family who lives at the convent, who also went to Lisbon to see the play), are in one room or event together giving them both the opportunity to mingle and understand each other a bit more. The Portuguese somewhat reserved behaviour was rather apparent throughout the entire event. No one would be talking particularly load or stand out (apart from of course the producers of the play) and even when there was Monchique’s mel cake (honey), Melosa and Medronho, every one was rather calm and keeping to themselves.
The day started with joining a group of 65 Monchiquese on an organised mushroom walk by the council. All in Portuguese and slowed down by taking lots of pictures, did we soon trail behind and even lost them. Spotting the photos on the president’s facebook later, explained why everyone was literally running up Picota. They picked, discussed and ate their treasures.
Nic, Julia and I had a fabulous day and walk tho, spotting at least 20 different types and sitting on top of Picota without a single cloud in the sky in late November. Life’s good! Have a look at Julia’s blogpost ‘mushroom geek’. (I’m loving the title!)
Monchique for its size has a fair number of craft shops packed with lots of products from around Portugal. Locally made products of Monchique are limited to roman style chairs, honey, medronho, embroidery and baskets. The cork products are manufactured in the Algarve, the nice bed throws and woolly jumpers and socks from the north of Portugal, the pottery mainly from Alentejo. However there are a few shoemakers, blacksmiths and chair makers workshops which one can visit to observe the process hands on. The cutest and most charming I’d recommend is Maria Rosa’s unnamed shop opposite the Spar supermarket, where the 80 year old lady sells her embroidery along other nice products from Monchique and Portugal.
Take the virtual tour of Monchique’s crafts shops. Click through the photos of the research. Enjoy!
The process of tile making
Traditionally tiles are 140x140mm in size and are either made from clay or ceramics. A base tile is either cut from a large sheet using a metal template plate or formed or cast using a mound. Then the base is primed and fired at 960-1100 degrees. When the base tile has been created, the tile is painted and finally finished by firing it a second time. This process seems all quite simple. It becomes more complicated when paints are area wide and need to be distinguished from one another. This is done using a separation paint or oils which evaporate when firing (this technique is called Cuerda-Seca). Alternatively grooves are already moulded into the base tile which separate the paints naturally. This process is called Arista or Relief. A mold can be seen on the bottom – a photo taken at a tile maker in Alfama.
To paint a tile, the motif needs to be transferred onto the tile before outlining and painting it. For this, a bag of black chalk is used to powder the outline on the white base tile. The motif is painted on a transparent sheet which has been pierced with holes through which the fine dust of chalk is creating a mark on the tile beneath. The photo below explains the process step by step and the same technique is still used today.